Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Half Dome, Check! by Kevin Chao

Ahh, Half Dome. I did do the climb on Saturday September 29, 2007. It was an utterly amazing climb that involved about 16 hours of straight hiking with constant probing of my cane and trekking pole to find a good footing. If I didn't find a good footing it could make the difference between slipping on the rocky terrain or falling off the side of the cliff with a drop-off of over 3000 feet. The feeling of actually getting to the top of Half Dome after an 8.5 mile hike, elevation change of 5000 feet and 8 hours was just amazing. And once completed the entire hike was also an amazing feeling. I am not sure if there are any words that can describe how physically involved the climb was, labor intensive it was, and how amazing it was. I will admit that my entire legs were in pure pain with each step for the last 4 mile of the hike down. I can say that I am still feeling the pain a bit today, but I am healing.

Here a few notes regarding the Hike:
18 Miles
16 hours
Total Elevation Change: 10000 feet
valley floor: 3800 feet
Top of Half Dome: 8800 feet.
began: 6AM
Finished: 10PM

I recorded User POIs, Audios, and photos along the way along with making a
Replay of the entire trip. Each POI is associated with an audio file that gave an audio of what the progress was, what was around me and so on.
Download Kevin's User.poi and Replay file (zipped file).
Some may wonder why would anyone want to hike 18 miles, go through an
elevation change of 10000 feet, and do this for 16 hours. This was something
that I started last year on my birthday where I walked with friends in San
Francisco for 13 miles in honor of October 13, my birthdate. This time
around I decided to raise the bar and do it honor of the age I will be, 18.
So it was a personal goal that I set for myself and was surely worth it.

Happy Isle Bridge
Audio file of Happy Isle Bridge
Audio file of Vernal Falls Bridge

Vernal Falls Bridge
Rock Holding up Other Rock

Vernal Falls Behind
Stairs to Top of Vernal Falls
Audio file of ascending 900 steps with fall in the background and rock
Audio file 7 30

Top of Vernal Falls
Audio file of the top of Vernal Falls
Audio file of Rest Area

Little Yosemite Campground
Audio file of Little Yosemite Campground
Audio file of Half Dome Trail

Vista, overlooking El Capitan
Audio file at the vista overlooking El Capitan

Audio file of vista at El Capitan

Half Dome Cable behind
Audio file of Rest Area Before Cables

Top of Half Dome
Audio file at the top of Half Dome

On Sentinel Bridge with Half Dome in the distance

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Impressions of WayFun 2007, Joleen F.

I want to say how impressed I am with the whole Sendero crew. On the GPS list and in person, you seem tireless in helping with questions and your goal is to see each of us reach our highest potential with your product. It was really fun to get to know each of you in person after seeing your messages on the GPS list.

I am also very impressed with the fact that Seeing Eye also helped sponsor the trip and showed commitment to it by having Barbara and Theresa as well as Jim and Ginger with us. It shows the overall importance of using technology while working with a dog. Wonderful combination.

Now, I don't believe that Sandy came as mobility instructor as much as fellow participant, but she definitely brought her expertise along and we were able to benefit by her knowledge as well.

Yes, and Humanware was also well represented by Greg. He too was eager to help.

Now for the rest of us. I was impressed with how each of us encouraged those of us, such as myself, who were having difficulty getting the information in a timely way from our units. There seemed to be no impatience among us.

I learned a lot and had a great time as well.

I especially enjoyed using latitude and longitude coordinates to locate Mike. The resulting reward of finding lunch made a very positive experience.

The whole WayFun Idea is ingenious in my book and lots of fun as well.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Geocaching pays off again!

Gil, Kevin, Greg and Sandy were off geocaching again and stumbled upon a real treasure. Hear an audio file of their discovery.
Gil, Kevin and Greg standing in front of their latest geocaching treasure

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Granville Island, Chris Grabowski

A group of us went to Granville Island in Vancouver BC. We split into two groups and went our separate ways. Chris, Marla, Debby and Carlos decided to head back early and explore around the hotel.
We used our GPS systems to navigate back to the hotel. The hardest part was to find your destination when you are within 200 feet. A few times back and forth up and down the block, we got the familiar “arrived near destination” message. Also we could smell the relief area for the dogs.


WayFun Saturday, Stanley Park Carriage ride and more, by Ilona Wellman

This morning nine of us went to have breakfast at one of the café Crepes on Granville Street before going to Stanley Park. Joleen was appointed to be our guide but her faulty GPS receiver (that apparently didn't know the difference between left and right) led us in the wrong direction. Angela had problems with her receiver too but managed to help us out by creating a pedestrian route in virtual mode. Go Angela!
The lady that we talked to first when we entered Café Crepe was a bit nervous about the dogs but her colleague nicely explained to her that these were not just regular pets but well-trained, well-behaved seeing eye dogs and then all was fine. We got a warm welcome and were seated at two tables. On second thought they decided to give us the private room where only important people were allowed to go. Along the walls around the entire room there were benches and they pulled up tables in front of us. Our waitress was Angie who said she feels like she's been naughty when people call her Angela whereas our Angela prefers to be called Angela.
Joleen's friend John joined us for the day which was very nice and helpful as he is sort of a local.
Group walking along the boardwalk to Stanley Park
Together with Charles he made sure we didn't get lost or scratched as our GPSes guided us on our nice walk to Stanley Park. (I almost wrote that they led us to the park but Mike wouldn't approve of that).

After this bit of exercise we gave Newman and Howie some exercise by going on a carriage tour. Don't feel sorry for them though; these horses get a massage every day, we don't. Although Clydesdale Howie had a bit of a traumatic experience with a dog not too long ago he was okay with our dogs. Newman and some of his colleagues are movie stars actually. This was probably the best ride ever but then Charles, who could well be a travel agent, has his own strategy for making very sure his customers are really satisfied. Charles recorded the trip, here is an audio clip from the first part of the carriage ride.
Stanley Park Carriage group, Joleen, her friend John, Mark, Angela, Paul, Kathy, Ilona, Barb and Theresa. Charles is the photographer
the group waiting for the Stanley Park carriage ride to start.  Their carriage is pulled by two horses, Newman and Howie
Charles posing for a picture in front of the horses
the group leaving Stanley Park

Oh and something I learnt today from someone in our group and like to pass on to you fellow blind folks: if you're out with friends, relatives, colleagues or whoever and you want to make sure the one who drives you home is sober just say you'll be the designated driver. You could do it of course, having your GPS, but you know how sighted people are, the idea will still scare the craving for alcohol out of them.


WayFun Saturday, Ginger Kutsch

This morning, nine of us headed out to visit Granville Island. The island is a small island and shopping district in Vancouver with loads of Food, art, history, culture and entertainment. There is a causeway that connects the island to the mainland but we decided to catch the Aquabus at the south end of Hornby Street. From the hotel, we calculated the route and walked about two-thirds of a mile before arriving at the ferry landing. As we neared the landing, Payton and Anthony zoomed right over to an archway where a ramp led down to the dock. Who needs vision when you have Seeing Eye dogs and a GPS!

Apparently these rainbow-colored Aquabus ferries continuously criss-cross False Creek so it didn’t take long before we found ourselves boarding the water taxi. Five minutes later, the Aquabus dropped us off on Granville Island at a dock beside the Arts Club Theatre. We walked up the ramp into the Public Market where our party split into two smaller groups. Our group decided to start by hunting for tea. Jim typed “tea” into the POI search and found one nearby shop. We set the destination to the Granville Island Tea Company and off we went. Since there were very few defined streets and many open plazas, we could not follow a specific route to the tea shop. Rather, we repeatedly asked the GPS for “clock” direction and distance to the shop since it was but one of dozens of businesses in the midst of the public market.

The service at the Granville Island Tea Company shop was excellent. There were dozens of teas to choose from and the sales lady passed large tins of tea around so we could experience the wonderful aromas. She said aroma was an essential part of enjoying a fine cup of tea. I bought 50 grams of some fabulous herbal vanilla tea that I’d never heard of.

By now our group was getting hungry so we headed over to The Sandbar restaurant located directly under the Granville Street Bridge. Apparently Granville Island was once known as the “Great Sandbar” where local tribes came over to enjoy fish and serenity. The restaurant is perched over the waterfront and serves fresh fish and seafood. After we ate, we went back over to the public market to finish our shopping extravaganza.

The market features over 50 permanent specialty businesses and about the same number of “day” tables and stalls. We found a really cool soap table where I purchased a bar of spearmint eucalyptus soap and another that smelled like orange mint. We browsed a bit longer and then decided to go back to the hotel for a short break before heading out for the next adventure. We fired up the GPS units and we were off again!

Friday, September 14, 2007


What do these WayFun people get up to?

Fast forward to an active night life in Vancouver. Our hotel is in the heart of the dining and entertainment district. It is well after midnight and the streets are still packed.
Charles talking to the bouncer at the Cellar, the club below their hotel
We asked some local BC policemen some questions and this lead to a rather unique situation.
Charles in the Paddy Wagon, must have been too much GPSing
Jamie in the Paddy Wagon, man those Sendero folks sure know how to break Canadian law!


WayFun Friday, computers, manual routes, and sitar lessons

Charles can't go too far without bringing out his laptop.. this time he is trying to move while fixing a program on the laptop

Bob, Sheh, Teresa, and Karen at Beaver Lake

Bob, Sheh, and Karen give the manual routes a test on this country corkscrew curved road
Bob getting Sitar lessons in a music store in Fantan Alley


WayFun Friday by Denna Lambert

The day started to a much faster pace than the first day in Victoria. Based on yesterday's adventures, the WayFun participants were equipped with a clearer sense of what they wanted to accomplish in the remaining time we had available to us in this beautiful cityscape. Groups formed quickly and one even started earlier than the appointed 8:30 a.m. meeting time in hopes to see one of Victoria's popular destinations; Birchman castle.
The group I participated in wanted to take a slower pace and ride the "Big Bus" to the local beach side shore and walk through a local 1800's cemetery. The group consisted of Sheila Small, Ginger and Jim Kutcsh, Theresa Davenport, Jamie, Barb, Ilona, and Denna Lambert.
We started down the ever popular Douglas Avenue to the bus stop for the "Big Bus" tour lines, but we ran into the little problem of not knowing the exact location of the bus stop. Never fear, with GPS in hand and a group of resourceful individuals, we quickly found the location that was only a two block walk from where we were located on Johnson and Douglas street Once we were on the bus, we could listen to the pre-recorded descriptions of popular points of interests in Victoria. But honestly, I think we each enjoyed the fellowship with others on a very beautiful day. We all shared notes on what we did the previous day and took in the sights and sounds of the city.
Jim and Ginger left the group to search for polish bread and the remaining members continued on the bus to a sandy beach. The bus made its way through city blocks and residential areas lining the Victorian coastline and allowed passengers to come and go as the bus moved toward our own destination; sandy beach.
Denna, Sheila, Jamie and Ilona at the Mile '0' sign at the beginning of their adventure
After departing the bus, we made our way down the stairs to the small beach where we took pictures of ourselves as individuals and even in a teepee shape structure made out of logs swept in from the water. I am confident that we all were able to take in the areas beauty and serenity of the waves repetitive crests and breaks.
Denna inside of the teepp structure on the beach
Ilona, Sheila, and Denna at the beach
We walked up the hill from the beach and entered the residential community and were awed at the variety and quality of emaculate flowers, stone wall designs, and manicured lawns each of the houses proudly showcased. We all noted that Victoria's temperate climates is ideal for many of the flowers seen on our walk that are most likely unknown to common lawns and garden beds in the United States.
Denna stopping to smell the flowers
On our way to the cemetery, we introduced ourselves to neighbors who were talking on the street, but didn't get too much a response from them. Tourists are probably a common occurence in this neighborhood. Or, they probably thought we were Jehovah's Witnesses ready to share with them. Nonetheless, we made our way to the cemetery and found a massive amount of history in the names and dates of the individuals burried in the area. For instance, we can safely assume that there was a fairly large Asian community living in the Victoria area in the late 1800's and early 1900's based on the artistic Japanese or Chinese symbols dawning the tombstones.
Ilona looking at a tombstone with Japanese/Chinese characters

We also noticed children, husbands and wives who were burried within months of each other; probably indictitive of the grief each felt from their loved one's death. As we walked through the cemetery we didn't experience an overwelming sense of sadness, but an understanding of individuals and families of this area we called a destination of our WayFun 2007 adventure.
Before we knew it, our time of adventure was waning and needed to find sustenance before meeting the bus at the Traveler's Hotel. I am quite sure that like us, many of the groups probably have walked approximately three to four miles. But those three, four, or how ever many miles traveled marked memories of adventure, growth, and freedom experience through great fellowship with others, a sense of confidence in which ever mobility tool of choice, and a technology that provides the most essiential items of information that completes a circle of independence.


WayFun Friday, Ginger Kutsch

Today Jim and I headed out on another adventure with April, Denna, Ilona, Sheila, Jamie, Barb and Teresa. We all wanted to go to the beach so we found the nearest “Big Bus” stop and started off in that direction. We learned of a somewhat secluded beach from our bus ride yesterday and had decided to go there on today’s adventure.

Some of us jumped off the bus at Oak Bay village first so we could pick up a picnic lunch. We calculated a route back to Cobs Bread Co. and purchased a loaf of tomato-cheese bread, Country grain bread and a dozen little fruit filled tarts. Next, we found a little market and got three kinds of cheese, black grapes and drinks. We headed back to the bus stop and hopped on the next bus toward Gonzales Bay.
Group in front of Cobs Bread
Ginger, Jim and April at the beach
The beach – and the food- was fabulous. We all sat on a fallen log and listened to the waves lapping against the shore while Barb described the sweeping views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympia Mountains located in Washington State. All too soon we had to make our way back up the path and wait for the next bus. We needed to be back by two to load onto a bus to take the ferry from Sidney to Vancouver.

The ferry ride from Victoria to Vancouver was highlighted by an impromptu chat with a boatsman at the bow of the ferry. Mike just happened to hit record on the PK.
Mike talking with the boatsman
Sendero crew on the ferry to Vancouver
group on the ferry to Vancouver
We arrived in Vancouver around six. As we neared the hotel, I sat on the bus listening to all the GPS units chattering away announcing the various points of interest along the route. Everyone was trying to decide where to go for dinner. After we checked in to the hotel, Jim grabbed the GPS and we headed off with Denna, Barb and Teresa to find a place to eat. The restaurants were packed and the area was quite lively. Apparently a lot of kids come over from Seattle to party here since the drinking age is 19 and the beer and liquor is a lot stronger than in the US. The sidewalks winded around in no particular order. We went up stairs, around corners and down ramps. Some of the sidewalks even had leaf shapes imprinted in the cement underneath live trees. We kept asking passing pedestrians for recommendations on where to eat but each time we found the place, it was either way too loud or the waiting line was way too long. We eventually decided to turn back and get pizza delivered to the room. Thanks to the GPS, we knew there was a nearby Dominos!

Thursday, September 13, 2007


WayFun Thursday, Ginger Kutsch

On Thursday, Chris, Marla, Barb, Jim and I grouped together and headed off to Craigdarroch Castle, a beautiful historic Victorian-era mansion, built in the 1890s by wealthy BC coal baron Robert Dunsmuir. On the first part of the trip, we stopped at the corner of Caledonia and Quadra outside police headquarters to look at a marble and stone sculpture called Trust in Harmony. The sculpture was of several figures working together to raise a pillar. The words “Trust in Harmony” were in Braille and engraved into the stone in several different languages.

As we moved on, we left the busy streets of downtown Victoria and entered a quiet residential area. I was glad we had the GPS since there were very few people walking around to ask for directions. Perhaps one of the best things about the GPS is the fact that you can check and re-check for directions anytime and it’s often much more accurate than directions you receive from other pedestrians.

Chris Grabowski recorded an audio file at the castle. You will hear the BrailleNotes chattering in the background and a description of the castle they visited.

Mike and Chris at the entrance of the castle
After our trip to the castle, we met up with another GPS group and boarded an open air hop-on, hop-off tour bus. These “Big Buses” travel a 90-minute loop around Victoria and pick up or drop off people at specific points along the route. As we rode along the streets of Victoria, we listened to a recorded voice highlighting some of the more popular attractions. We were able to learn a lot more about the nearby POIs through the GPS units though.

We all piled off at a seaside village called Oak Bay. Barb spied a gorgeous little red jacket through a shop window so we zipped inside while the rest of our group searched the points of interest for a route to a little café or bistro where we could get coffee. It was really cool to be dropped off in a strange town and have so much information about its shops, cafes, bistros, attractions, etc. at our fingertips.
Ginger enjoying a cup of coffee at the Serious Cafe
The group decided on “Serious Coffee” – not an easy decision with so many points of interest to choose from – and off we went.

The village was absolutely stunning. Oak Bay is an exclusive, well-established municipality made up of multi-million dollar homes, mansions dating back to the 1800’s, and new upscale construction. We strolled down sidewalks lined with huge oak trees and beautiful gardens while the GPS announced the surrounding points of interest. One point caught our interest, Cobs Bread Co. and we made note to check it out on the way back.

We arrived at Serious Coffee and after ordering our drinks, sat outside in the outdoor eating area. As we leisurely sipped our coffee, Mike and Jim scanned the points of interest in the quaint little village. We finished our coffee and headed back to the bread shop. The shop was filled with lots of scrumptious pastries and breads. We bought a loaf of sliced apricot bread; cranberry custard filled Danish and sampled all kinds of fabulous food.

After finding a bank to exchange US money for Canadian money, Rogers Chocolate and exploring a bit more, we hopped back on the bus and headed back toward the hotel. We jumped off at another stop and once again searched the POIs for a place to eat lunch. We found a pub that sounded good to everyone and calculated the route. Minutes later, we were all seated at a round table in an outdoor eating area at Darcy's Pub. What a great way to travel – the GPS is so accessible. It allows us to have the same information that sighted people get from maps, phone books and those fancy tourism brochures.

After lunch, we made our way back to the hotel. What an incredible feeling it is to be dropped off literally anywhere in the city and still be able to navigate back to our starting point.

Sheila about to board the Victoria Sightseeing Bus

WayFun GPS group, Angela, Mark, Sheila,


"You're Going Around in Circles" By Kevin Chao

Today was the first full day for the WayFun group in Victoria, BC. We started the day by breaking up into several groups of 4 to 6 people. There was one group that went GeoCaching, one that went to Butchard Garden, another to a castle and another to High Tea. Oh yes, there was the shopping group. The main point was to use our GPS to explore a city in which many of us haven't ever been to before.

Gil and I were in charge of the group that went GeoCaching, our group members included Sandy, Dena, Denver, and Greg (two dogs and two canes). We stumbled upon five of the ten GeoCaches in Victoria, the most notable of which was called, "You're Going Around in Circles Anyways." As a group, this was the way we felt while finding these GeoCaches. Even though we were going around in circles, we always knew where we were and where we were trying to go to because we had the Sendero GPS along with our other tools and techniques for exploring a new city on a beautiful day. We even found our way back to our base hotel, the Traveller's Inn, Down-Town.

Kevin, Gil, Dena and Greg about to start their Geocaching day


Butchart Gardens and High Tea in Victoria

Charles and gang toured the Butchart Gardens. The Butchart Gardens, fifty-five acres of stunning floral show gardens, is one of the world's premier floral show gardens.
Charles, Theresa, Ilona, Paul and Kathy pose at the Sunken Gardens Lookout
Ilona stops along the way to smell the roses in the Rose Garden
Paul, Kathy, Ilona make their way down a pathway in the gardens, behind them is a zig-zagging staircase.  Everything is surrounded in greenery and blooming flowers
The group pauses to take a picture in front of the Ross Fountain
Charles, Paul, Kathy, Ilona, and Theresa snap a photo of a todem pole in Thunderbird Park
The Empress, one of the best places to enjoy afternoon tea
Sheila enjoying high tea, the spread on the table is impressive.  The teacups are fine china, there is a three tiered dessert tray with assorted goodies on it, there are fresh fruit cups with a dollup of shipped cream on top,
More of the afternoon tea group, Mark, Angela

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


WayFun 2007, Ferry from Seattle to Victoria, BC

WayFun 2007 officially kicked off today. Most of the group flew into Seattle Airport. They then boarded a ferry that took them over the U.S. and Canadian border and into Victoria.
WayFun participants were armed with marine waypoints such as buoys and shipwrecks to keep them company on the ferry ride. It was a good time for everyone to get to know each other and gear up for the upcoming adventures.
Gil, Kevin, and others on the ferry ride
Sheila, Mark, and Illona on the ferry
Charles, Theresa, Angela and the rest of the WayFun gang on the ferry
WayFun participants on the ferry
Chris on the ferry
WayFun group disembarking the ferry... Look out Victoria!

Mike May, Jim and Ginger Kutch took a different ferry and met the group in Victoria. Mike recorded an audio file of the ferry ride.


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